Characteristics of Japanese Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) in the Wild

Characteristics of Japanese Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) in the Wild

Japanese ivy or Japanese creeper (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) is a flowering plant in the Vitaceae family that originates from East Asia, including Korea, Japan, and northern and eastern China.

Although not related to true ivy, Parthenocissus tricuspidata is commonly known as Japanese ivy, Japanese creeper, Boston ivy, Grape ivy, and sometimes Woodbine although the latter name may refer to several different species of vine.

In Mandarin, this plant has several names, namely 冰火虎 which means “wall climbing tiger”), or 山虎 “mountain climbing tiger” (which refers to the Hedera helix plant).

In Taiwanese Hokkien, this plant also has several names, including 牆壁藤 meaning “wall vine”, 𬦰山虎 “mountain climbing tiger”, 紅葛 “red vine”, 紅骨蛇 “red-boned snake” (a name which refers to at least five other plants as well).

In Korean, this plant is called 담쟁이덩굴 referring to plants that grow on walls. In the context of traditional Korean medicine, it is known as 지금 /地錦.

In Japanese, vines are usually known as Tsuta (萦) meaning “ivy”, but also as Amazura or Jinishiki.

In Okinawa, vines are called 蔦;つぃた.

Characteristics of Japanese Ivy Leaf

Parthenocissus tricuspidata Leaf
Source: theyeti

The leaves are simple, palmate lobed with three lobes, sometimes unlobed or with five lobes, and three leaflets, leaf width ranges from 5-22 cm.

Characteristics of Japanese Ivy Flower

Parthenocissus tricuspidata Flower
Source: Alamy

The flowers are inconspicuous, greenish or yellowish, and in clusters.

Characteristics of Japanese Ivy Fruit

Parthenocissus tricuspidata Fruit
Source: fritzrichter

The fruit is a small dark blue to black grape with a diameter of 5-10 mm.

Characteristics of Japanese Ivy

Parthenocissus tricuspidata Plant
Source: Esveld

Japanese ivy grows as a deciduous woody vine that can climb to heights of 30 meters or more if given appropriate support.

Japanese ivy uses adhesive pads to stick to surfaces, allowing it to climb trees, walls, and other structures vertically. Contact with the surface signals the adhesive pad to expel mucus through microscopic pores that dry out and create a strong adhesive bond. The ability of a single adhesive pad to support thousands of times its weight can be explored as a model for new biomimetic materials.

Benefits of Japanese Ivy

In its native area, this plant has traditional medicinal uses, especially in China and Korea, and as a culinary sweetener in Japan.

Both within and outside East Asia, it is primarily used as an ornamental plant, especially the cultivar Parthenocissus tricuspidata ‘Veitchii’.

Like related vines, Japanese ivy is widely planted to cover the facades of masonry buildings. This use is economically important because, shading the walls during the summer, can significantly reduce cooling costs.

Even though the roots do not penetrate the surface of the building and only stick to it, surface damage can occur such as paint marks due to attempts to tear the plant from the wall. However, if the plant is killed first, for example by cutting the vines from the base, the adhesive pad will eventually break down to the point where the plant can be easily removed from the wall.

In the US, Japanese ivy is used on the brick walls of the Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field baseball field along with Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus).

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